United States. Congress.

Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 189 of 199)
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partial, and dignified manner in 'which he has pre-
sided over its deliberations, and performed the ar-
duous and important duties of the Chair.

Mr. MoKJENiTAN inquired of the chair whether
this could be received at this time without sus-
pending the rules of the House for that pur-

Mr. Elmoee suggested that it had always
been customary to offer a resolution of this
kind as an act of courtesy, and it was never
objected to.

Mr. Bell hoped that no objection would be
made. It was an act of courtesy on the part
of the House, to which he presumed there
would be no objections of a technical character.

Mr. MoKennan" said he should not press the
inquiry or make further objection.

Mr. OuBTis renewed the objection. This
was not petition day, and petitions could only
be presented on leave. The short time remain-
ing ought to be devoted to the pressing busi-
ness of the country, which ought not to be
interrupted by a resolution of this description,
which would, in all probability, lead to an ex-
cited debate.

Mr. Elmoee quoted from the journal a prece-
dent when a vote of thanl^s had been passed to
Mr. Stevenson. The question of order had then
been raised as now ; the Ohaie had decided
the motion to be in order ; an appeal was
taken, and the House sustained the decision
of the Chaie by a vote of 95 to 40.

Mr. Pbbntiss said he would not object to
the offering of the resolution, but wished to
offer an amendment to it.

Mr. Elmoee reminded him that it was a
question of order, and that no amendment
could be offered till it had been settled, and the
resolution received.

Mr. Wise said he should never have raised
the question of order himself, but thought it
was very proper that it should be raised and
considered ; ancf as it was now up, he should
back his friend from New York (Mr. Ouetis)
in his objection. This was a resolution —
nothing more, and nothing else — and it came
under the rules which governed the presenta-
tion of resolutions. If it was in order, it could
be only because the rules admitted its presen-
tation, or because the House, by a vote of two-
thirds, suspended the rule for a time. The

rules expressly forbade its being presented save
on a particular duty, and the rules had not been

Mr. Otjetis said that to avoid delay he would
withdraw his question of order, though he held
it to be a valid objection under the rules.

Mr. Elmoee said, that in offering this resolu-
tion he had only followed out a practice of the
House which had prevailed from the begin-
ning of the Government. Courtesy had always
dictated to the members of the House to accord
to their Speaker that meed of thanks which
was due to his services. He had no desire
to wound the feelings of any gentleman ; nor
would he debate the propriety of the reso-
lution itself; but if others entered into that
question, he should claim an equal right to
do so.

Mr. Peentiss said that he had come
to the House prepared to expect the offer-
ing of such a resolution. He had seen indi-
cations of its coming, and he had come pre-
pared also to offer an amendment to the reso-
lution, and to sustain that amendment, which
he should do, if left to sustain it alone. He
moved to amend the resolution, by striking
from it the word "impartial."

Mr. P. said he was unwilling, at this hour,
when they were about so shortly to leave that
hall, to allude to any thing which might excite
unpleasant reminiscences. He considered this
resolution as not a mere matter of form. It
had been claimed to be a mere act of parting
courtesy, usual at the termination of every
Congress ; if it were that, and nothing more
than that - if it were the mere touching of the
cap or extending the hand to the Speakee who
was retiring from office — ^Mr. P. would not
oppose or object to it. He was for encour-
aging the- courtesies of life, and they had seen
quite enough, during the present session, to
convince them of the necessity of doing so ;
but this was a peculiar case, to which the rules
of mere courtesy did not apply. Mr. P. could
not consent to praise the Speaker for having
been impartial in the discharge of the duties
of the chair, simply because it was not true
that he had been impartial. It might be said
that this was a very small matter — a custom-
ary compliment merely ; but, as every gentle-
man knew, in politics, a very small thing might
become a very great thing ; a mere thread
might be seized upon, and, by party manage-
ment, might be woven at last into a cable,
by which to lead bodies of men, and to control
the Legislatures of States. The present reso-
lution was one which presented facilities for
being so availed of. Mr. P. had no objection
to uttering a courteous farewell to the Speaker
as a gentleman, and wishing him a pleasant
journey home ; l>ut he Relieved this wte of
tJianJcs was to 'be used as so much political
capital to do political business upon, and he,
for one, was not disposed to furnish it.

He said that the Speaker had not been im-
partial: the House did not so consider him;



3d Sess,]

Thmiks to the Speaker.

[March, 1839.

and in proof of this, it would be suflBoient to
refer to the vote of the House, refusing to
him, on that very ground, the appointment of
the members of an Investigating Committee to
examine into the defalcations of his own party.
And though the debate on that subject had
rushed and raged through the House like an
unchained tiger, leaping in all directions, yet
this was a point, and the only point, from
which it had never departed ; here it had fixed
its fangs with a determined and deadly hold.
Trust the Speaker with that appointment the
House would not. And now, to pass a solemn
vote that the Speaker had discharged his duties
in an " impartial " manner, it would be to
declare a lie. Mr. P. never would vote for
such a declaration. He never would say what
he did not believe, nor record the assertion that
the Speakee had been impartial, when the
House had recorded its own vote to the con-
trary. Mr P. had here, in his pocket, a little
document, which would speak very intelligibly
as to this Spbakek's impartiality. He well
knew what this resolution of thanks was
worth, under existing circumstances. He
should speak out plainly and explicitly, as he
was wont to do. He knew that the incum-
bent of the chair was playing a political game,
in which the smallest amount of capital was
useful to him. In that game Mr. P. was
opposed to him ; and he would not, by voting
for this resolution, throw it into his own teeth.
He would not send that gentleman into the
electioneering field with this certificate in his
pocket. He would not certify to the people
of the United States a positive lie, which was
to be used against himself and others, with
whom he acted. He would say to the whole
country, that in the formation of the com-
mittees of the House — and what act was of
deeper importance — the Speaker had not
been impartial. Mr. P. would not be under-
stood as saying that it was unusual or improper
that the Speaker of that House, in appointing
its standing and other committees, should place
upon them a majority of those who corre-
sponded with him in political sentiments ; of
this he did not complain. But he believed
there was not a legislative body upon the
globe where, political parties being so nearly
balanced, the disparity of those parties in the
committees of that body was so enormous.
Mr. P. would deal in no loose or general asser-
tions on this subject; he would put his
finger upon the facts ; facts which, if the gen-
tleman from South Carolina (Mr. Elmoee)
was able to swallow, his powers of deglutition
must be very different from those of Mr. P. _

To begin with the Committee on Foreign
Afiairs. How stood parties there? There were
six administration men to three of the Oppo-
sition. Was this— Mr. P. put it_ to gentle-
men—was this a fair representation of the
balance of parties in the House itself?
Then there was the Committee of Ways and
Means, every one admitted its importance, as
Vol. xm.— 49

standing at the head of the finances ; and how
was it constituted ? Here again it was six to
three. But what was the constitution of the
Committee of Elections? Everybody knew
that a place on that committee had been no
sinecure, this Congress ; so far from it, the
acts and reports of that committee had shaken
the pillars of this Government, as the blind
Samson shook the pillars of Dagon's temple ;
if they had not been absolutely thrown down,
they had at least been shaken to their founda-
tion. It was a committee in which, of all
others, the strictest impartiality was demanded ;
for there it was that the demon of party was
most likely to rear its hydra head. And how
did this committee — a committee of judges —
how did it stand ? Seven to two. Yes, seven
to two ; that was this Speaker's " impar-
tiality." Well, how stood the case with the
Judiciary Committee? Here, again, it was
seven to two, if the distinguished gentle-
man from Virginia was to be ranked with the
Administration ; but as a change had taken
place since the constitution of the committee,
it stood, on tl* most favorable statement, six
to three. Here, then, under the action of this
most impartial Speaker, the four most important
committees of the House were so constituted
as to give the Administration party, as its
very smallest majority, two to one; and the
most important of them all, in a political
point of view, had seven on the one side, and
but two on the other !

Mr. P. did not -mean to be understood as
derogating, in the slightest degree, from the
character, or reflecting on the conduct, of the
members of these committees — far from it..
They acted, no doubt, according to their own
views of public duty. He spoke only of the
balance of political power in those committees
collectively. But how stood matters in those
committees which exerted no party or political
influence ? Oh I there he found quite a differ-
ent state of things. The Committee of Manu-
factures contained eight Whigs to one Adminis-
tration man. Now, if their duty had been to
manufacture politics, did any man believe that
such a proportion would have been observed?
Oh, no, the balance would have been far differ-
ent. Then there came the Committee on
Roads and Canals — a committee which, how-
ever useful or important, exerted no political
influence ; and it contained seven Whigs.
Here the proportion was seven to two. So
in the Committee on Kevisal and Unfinished
Business, seven to two. In the little Com-
mittees on Expenditures in the various Depart-
ments, it was still larger ; some of these were
all Whigs. Now, did not this show design ?
Was there not a reason for so great a con-
trast? It showed a deliberately adopted
principle of action, followed out through the
whole selection; and this by a Speaker on
whose own election to the chair, the House had
been so equally divided, that his election had
been carried by thirteen votes only out of two



March, 1839.]

Thanhs to the Speaker.

[25th Cong.

hundred and forty-seven! After this, could
Mr. P. vets to declare that this officer had
been " impartial " in exercising his great and
most responsible power? This was in the
appointment of committees; and then, as to
others cases, where the House had been
equally divided, and the casting vote of the
Ohaie decided the question one way or the
other, would any gentleman point him to a
single instance, whether of greater or minor
importance — whether the decision swept away
the whole political rights of a State, or recog-
nized the official claims of the Globe news-
paper, or settled the smallest question, where
the vote had not invariably been given in one
direction ?

Mr. P. did not deny the capacity of the
Speaker, bis despatch of business, or his full
and thorough knowledge of parliamentary law
— he conceded all this — but it was the facts he
had just quoted on which Mr. P. took his
stand, and denied, utterly, the " impartiality "
of the Ohaib. And he never would, out of
mere courtesy, endorse a tool of the Executive,
or a tool of the party. *

A more perfectly party Speaker, one who
would be more disposed to bend the rules of
the House to meet the purposes of bis own
side in politics, never had pressed the soft and
ample cushions of that gorgeous chair. To
say that he had been impartial iu the duties
of his high office, would be but flattery, it
would be certifying to what was not true ; and
Mr. P. had too often seen the effects of certi-
ficates, not to be cautious how he gave them.
He was willing to make the Speaker a
.courteous parting bow ; but he would not con-
sent to let him sit there, and do all his party
work, and then march out with the honors of
war. The duties of the chair were too impor-
tant for this. The presiding officer of that
House cut out, in effect, all the business of the
House. It was he who placed before it all the
material , for its action ; and decided who
should work it up. Through the standing
committees of that House, his power extended
to the utmost bounds of the nation. It was in
some respects beyond that of the President
himself. Such an officer ought not to be the
high priest of party — that Moloch before
whose altars wei;e daily immolated the dearest
rights of this Republic. The present Speaker
was., as the House well Jcnew, a candidate at
this time for the Chief Magistracy of his own
State; and in the canvass there, and through-
out all the West, this vote would ie referred to
as an undeiiiable proof that he had exercised
the utmost impartiality while in that chair:
and yet the House itself had utterly refused to
trust him. When that damning fact should Je
"brought T)y his opponents, what more would he
have to do, should this resolve pass, than to tear
from the records of the Souse the leaf which
contained it, and holding it up to the sun, pro-
nounce all these representations to ie unfound-
<6d calumnies'! All those gentlemen who did

conscientiously believe the Speaker had been
impartial, would of course vote for the resolu-
tion ; but Mr. P. called upon all who did not,
and could not in their hearts believe so, but who
did believe that, with strong hand, he had
wielded his power for the purposes of a party,
to vote against it. Let those who knew the
resolution to be untrue, say so by their acts.
For one, if Mr. P. had ever seen the poised
needle turn and point with still prevailing
attraction 'toward the pole, he had seen that
Speaker turn with equal constancy towards
the interests of his party. Gentlemen might
raise the notes of their te Beum laudamus as
high as they pleased ; but he called upon all
those whose free sentiments had been crushed on
that floor by the weight of his official trunch-
eon, to let the world see that they would not give
the lie to those sentiments of indignation which
had often been forced from their lips under the
smart of oppression. Let them not give this
unguarded, sweeping certificate of good be-
havior, to aid the election of the Governor of
Tennessee. Thus to vote a public lie, was to set
a bad and pernicious example, particularly in a
free Kepublic.

Mr. P. concluded by moving as his amend-
ment to the resolution, to strike out the word
" impartially."

Mr. Gray said he did not rise for the pur-
pose of discussing the resolution, but for the
purpose, if the House should agree with him,
of having immediate action upon it, that the
House might proceed as speedily as possible to
other business. He said it was his intention
to move the previous question ; but before he
made that motion he would make a brief reply
to the gentleman from Mississippi, (Mr. Pren-
tiss,) who had not objected to the resolution
on the ground that the Speaker had not with
ability and impartiality presided over the
deliberations of the House; but, on the
contrary, the gentleman conceded that the
Speaker had, with ability and impartiality,
decided all questions which by the rules and
parliamentary law of the House it had been
bis duty to decide. The whole ground of
objection was, that the Speaker had appointed
a majority of his political friends on the lead-
ing and most important committees of the
House ; and hence the Speaker had not been
impartial. The gentleman said, strike out the
word "impartial," and he would vote for the

"Was it not the duty of the Speaker to ap-
point committees as the House would have
done? Can any one doubt that the House
would, by ballot, have elected committees
precisely, or, at least, substantially, as the
Speaker had appointed them? Could an
instance be given in which a committee had
been elected, that the majority of the House
had not placed a distinct majority of their
political friends upon the committee ? There
is a case too recent to be forgotten by the
House — the Swartwout committee. A major-



3d Sess.] Disagreement between the two Houses on the Book Distribution Appropriation. [March, 1839.

ity of the House are opposed to the Independ-
ent Treasury, and supposed, perhaps, that if
they could have a committee of opponents of
that measure, that arguments might be found
against the measure ; and what was the result?
The Committee were six and three — two to
one against the Administration.

The resolution offered is not novel; it has
been customary here, and it is customary
in State Legislatures. One was passed com-
plimentary to Mr. Stevenson at the expira-
tion of his term of service. He pursued the
same course as the present Speaker in the
appointment of committees, and more recently,
at the expiration of the term of the gentleman
from Tennessee, (Mr. Bell,) a resolution, in
nearly, if not the precise language with the one
imder consideration, was passed. The gentle-
man from Tennessee, (Mr Bell,) who was
then in favor of the Administration, followed
the example of Mr. Stevenson in the appoint-
ment of committees.

Mr. G. said he had before him the journals,
and would read the appointment of committees
made by the gentleman from Tennessee, (Mr.
Bell,) if any one desired it. The present
Speaker has done the same, nothing more ;
and less he could not do, unless he entirely dis-
regarded the will of the majority.

Mr. G. said that his colleague (Mr. Cuetis)
had raised a question of order upon the intro-
duction of the resolution, and as he supposed
his object was to defeat the resolution by pre-
venting its consideration, Mr. G. said he
would refer to an example in the New York
Legislature, which his colleague would recol-
lect. In 1838, the present Lieutenant Govern-
or of that State was Speaker of the Assembly.
During the session party spirit ran high :_ fre-
quent collisions took place between the minor-
ity of the House and the Speaker; many
appeals were taken from the Speaker's decis-
ion, and much asperity was exhibited in debate ;
and yet, at the close of .the session, the minor-
ity joined in an expression of thanks to the
Speaker. A distinguished individual^ of that
minority, formerly a member of this House,
(Mr. Mann,) as is usual on such occasions, rose
above the party excitement that had pervailed,
and made a speech highly complimentary of
the Speaker; it was due to the Speaker and
the honor of the State that the minority
should thus act, and should the same just
spirit prevail here, what is due to the dignity
of the House, to the Speaker, and to the honor
of the nation would be done.

But another and more significant objection is
raised : it is, that the adoption of this resolu-
tion may make him political capital, that it
may be used in the Tennessee election " upon
every stump in the State; " hence the gentle-
man from Mississippi would withhold from him
the justice which, by parliamentary custom, is
due to him, lest, by doing justice to him now,
he may have justice done him hereafter in his
own State. Mr. G. said it was not a matter

that ought to be discussed; the facts in the
case were upon record, and known to the
House; the propriety of the resolution was
self-evident ; and if gentlemen wished to make
a party question of it, and show the country
that they carried party feehngs to -an unpre-
cedented and unwarrantable extent, the sooner
they declare it the better.

Mr. G. then moved the previous question.

The previous question having been moved
upon the resolution, it was seconded ; and
upon the motion, shall the main question be
put, which was upon the adoption of the
resolution, it was decided in the affirmative
— yeas 92, nays 75.

The question then recurred upon the adop-
tion of the resolution, which was taken on yeas
and nays, and passed by the following vote :

Teas. — ^Messrs. Anderson, Andrews, Atherton,
Banks, Beatty, Beirne, Bioknell, Birdsall, Bouldin,
Briggs, Brodhead, Bronson, Buchanan, Bynum, Cam-
breleng, John Campbell, Casey, Chaney, Chapman,
Coles, Connor, Crary, Cushman, Dawson, Davee, El-
more, Farrington, Fry, Gallup, James Garland, Grant,
Gray, Griffin, Haley," Hammond, Hamer, Harrison,
Hawkins, Howard, Wm. H. Hunter, Ingham, Thomas
B. Jackson, Joseph Johnson, Nathaniel Jones, John
W. Jones, Keim, Kemble, Klingensmith, Leadbetter,
Lewis, Logan, Loomis, Lyon, J. M. Mason, Martin,
McKay, Robert MeClellan, Abraham McClellan, Mc-
Clure, Miller, Montgomery, Moore, Morgan, Samuel
W. Morris, Murray, Noble, Parker, Parmenter, Parris,
Paynter, Petrikin, Pickens, Plumer, Pratt, John H.
Prentiss, Putnam, Reily, Rives, Shefifer, Spencer,
Swearingen, Taylor, Thomas, Titus, Toucey, Towns,
Turuev, Vail, Wagener, Webster, Whittlesey, Jared
W. Williams, Worthington, and Yell — 94.

Nats. — Messrs. Adams, John W. Allen, Aycrigg,
Bell, Bond, Wm. B. Calhoun, John Calhoon, Wm.
B. Campbell, Carter, Chambers, Cheatham, Childs,
Clark, Corwin, Crabb, Cranston, Crockett, Curtis, Dar-
lington, Dunn, Evans, Ewing, Rice Garland, Goode,
Wm. Graham, Graves, Grennell, Halsted, Herod,
Wm. C. Johnson, Kennedy, Samson Mason, McKen-
nan, Menefee, Mercer, Calvary Morris, Naylor, Ogle,
Peck, P6pe, Sergeant S. Prentiss, Rariden, Randolph,
Reed, Ridgway, Robertson, Russell, Saltonstall, Au-
gustine H. Shepperd, Sibley, Stanly, Stratton, John
White, Lewis Williams, Christopher H. Williams,
Wise, and Word — 57.


Sunday, March 3.
Disagreement hetween the Houses and Struggle

over the Booh Distribution Appropriation.

A message was received from the House of
Representatives, stating that they had non-con-
curred in the amendments of the Senate to the
bill making appropriations for the civil and
diplomatic expenses of the Government for the
year 1839 : the amendments were, first, to
strike out the provision that the printing of
the Executive Departments should be done by
contract ; and the second was, striking out the
provision for distributing copies of the Docu-
mentary History of the United States to the



Mabch, 1839.] DisagreemcTit between the two Houses on the Booh Distribution Appropriation. [25th Cong.

members of the Senate and House of Eepre-

Mr. Weight moved that the Senate insist,
and that a conference with the House be asked ;
which was agreed to.

Numerous bills from the House were acted
on ; after which the Senate took a recess until
6 o'clock.


Mr. Weight, from the Committee of Confer-
ence, appointed to consider the disagreement
of the two Houses on the amendments of the
Senate to the general appropriation bill, report-
ed that the managers appointed to conduct the
conference on the part of the Senate, and the
managers on the part of the House, had agreed
to recommend to their respective Houses to
adopt the following course : that the Senate
should recede from so much of its amendment
as provides for the manner of executing the
printing for the Executive Departments, with
an amendment providing that the printing shall
be executed in the city of Washington ; and
that the Senate insist on so much of their
amendment as relates to the distribution of the
Clarke and Force papers to members of the
Senate, leaving it in the power of the House to
make the distribution to its own members,
while any such distribution to members of the
Senate is prohibited.

Mr. Benton said he never 'would agree to
this report, and he demanded the ayes and noes
on concurring in it. This system of distributing
books had grown up to an enormous abuse, in-
deed the most enormous abuse in our Govern-

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 189 of 199)